The most disgusting C word there is: complacency

So, Jack Wilshere did not play in a specially arranged game against Birmingham reserves yesterday. I don’t know why, because he was supposed to.

Perhaps when arranging the game they felt he’d have made enough progress to take part but when the day came they decided to be extra cautious, or he’s just not ready. I don’t know if there’s been a ‘setback’, it may well just be that when it came right down to it they felt him not playing was the best thing, but it does mean time is running out for him to make a comeback this season.

Our final league game is on May 13th against West Brom. Reports this morning say he could be another three weeks away, with other games especially arranged to give him some match practice, but even then it doesn’t give him long to prove his fitness. And if we’re still looking for points in the final couple of games, is it a big risk playing a guy who hasn’t played all season and whose sharpness and touch are hardly likely to be at 100%?

Maybe he would add fresh legs and enthusiasm to the midfield but it’d certainly be something of a risk, and given Arsene’s record when it comes to gambling I’d be a bit iffy about it, I have to say. Anyway, fingers crossed it’s nothing more than just caution keeping him sidelined.

Meanwhile, Theo Walcott has been speaking to the Mirror and said that Arsenal ‘underestimated’ QPR on Saturday:

With QPR, we probably underestimated them. But it’s always going to be a tough game. I felt that we didn’t really want it as much as QPR did, but that will change on Sunday.

I have to say that hearing stuff like this is really, really annoying. Theo is probably too honest for his own good there but nevertheless it’s out there now and after everything that was said by the manager, by the captain, and by experienced, senior players, to say we didn’t want it as much as QPR would make you want to punch Sam Allardyce in the belly. Ok, the fact that it’s slightly colder than I would like, or that your neighbour has parked their car a little too close to yours, would make you want to punch Sam Allardyce in the belly, but it still holds true for Theo’s revelation.

Why didn’t we want it as much as them? What does that even mean anyway? Is it just a throwaway soundbite in an interview – something a player really should know better than to say, in fairness – or is it really what happened? Even Arsene admitted we were second best in many areas at Loftus Road, and that’s not always indicative of a team not wanting it, but after a series of difficult fixtures on paper, perhaps they did look at QPR, their league position, and think it wasn’t going to be as tough as them.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. As I mentioned the other day most of the games we’ve got coming up are against opponents who have something to play for. Ideally you’d be playing teams who are safely in mid-table and have, subconsciously, switched off a bit, but that’s not the case. We knew we were playing a side who were scrapping for points to avoid relegation and still fell short.

The frustration is exacerbated by the fact that this is hardly unfamiliar territory. A few weeks ago Robin van Persie spoke about the winning run and said:

Now we need to show that over a period of a whole year. That is very hard and only the best of the best teams have that in them. We need to have a run like that for months and even win the ugly games.

When you go back to that article Gary Neville wrote about how ‘mental strength’ (*sigh*) was so important at this time of the year and then reconcile that with Arsenal switching off against QPR it shows you just how true that is. There’s no reason why they should have been fitter or sharper than us, in terms of players we had more quality, but ‘they wanted it more’.

I wonder if you examined it closely is there a pattern. Bad results, followed by a response from a focused team, followed by a bad result because the focus slipped a bit, followed by a response, followed by complacency due to the response, followed by … well, you get the picture. It’s not easy being consistent, especially in a challenging league like the Premier League, but we’ve got to learn our lessons more quickly and not keep repeating the same mistakes.

As for his comments about the race for third being as exciting as a title race, well, I’d respectfully disagree with that. It’s nerve-wracking, no doubt, and while finishing above them would certainly provide a few moments of hilarity considering how the season has played out, there’s no real prize beyond automatic qualification for the Champions League. It might feel more ‘like a trophy’ than ever but it’s not, there’s nothing tangible, no silverware to show off, and that’s where the real excitement comes in.

In other news, Real Sociedad want Carlos Vela on a permanent basis, and I’m sure Arsenal will be willing to do a deal. Vela is one of the players we have to get off the books on a permanent basis even if it means cutting our losses and accepting a transfer fee below what we’d expect. Then again, based on what he did for us in all those years at the club, I’m not sure how much we’d be looking for anyway. I’d happily let him go in exchange for pork burrito.

Finally for today, UEFA’s disciplinary procedures and fines have left many flummoxed as they demonstrate how vague criticism of a referee is worse than racism, but this exclusive leaked document shows the agenda to which they’re working.

Right, that’s yer lot. Hopefully the news will start picking up a bit ahead of Sunday’s game with Citeh. Back tomorrow with an Arsecast and all that.

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